The Players’ greatest player was woefully underpaid

The Players Championship teed off today at the TPC Sawgrass course just south of Jacksonville, Florida.  The tournament features every single one of the world’s top fifty players among the 144-player field.  This is a rare treat for fans as injuries, travel issues, and personal issues usually cause a few of the top golfers to miss a top event like this.

The golfers chasing the Players Championship trophy will not be competing for chump change, either.

This year’s winner will pocket an incredible $1.85 million from a total purse of $10.5 million.

Talented young golfers like Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas are reaping the benefits of playing in the Tiger Woods era of golf.  Riding Tiger’s wave of popularity over the past twenty years, golf’s television ratings also skyrocketed.

As a result of the increased money paid by advertisers for this prized demographic (men and women with significant disposable income to spend on advertised products and services), the networks began to pay big bucks for the television rights.  Tournament payouts eventually followed suit, and paydays for golfers on the PGA tour soared.

Today’s golfers (young and old) owe a debt of gratitude to the charisma of the late Arnold Palmer and, later, to Tiger Woods for helping mold golf into a more marketable television commodity.

Financially speaking, today’s golfers really do make significantly more money today than golfers toiling during the previous era dominated by Arnie, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, and other Hall-of-Famers from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

Take Jack Nicklaus, for instance.  Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of the Players Championship tournament (now in its 44th year).

Golf’s greatest major champion won this event in 1974 and received $50,000 from a total purse of $250,000.  Based on the US government’s really nifty CPI inflation calculator, Jack’s 1974 win would be worth $268,000 today.

In fact, Big Jack won the Players Championship again in 1976 and pocketed $60,000 from the purse of $300,000.  It would be worth $270,373 today.

Nicklaus’ third win of this event in 1978 earned him another $60,000 first place check from the $300,000 payout.  That would be worth $240,524 today.

In today’s dollars, Jack Nicklaus won this event three times in the 1970’s and earned an inflation adjusted $778,000.

In contrast, this year’s winner of the Players Championship will pocket Jack’s total earnings from three wins plus another cool $1.1 million!

This adds significant credibility to the laments heard from the tour’s older golfers who preached that they had to compete hard every week to win, place or show on the golf course just to make any significant money on the professional golf tour.

By contrast, every one of the top ten finishers in the 2017 Players Championship earned more than Jack Nicklaus did in any victory during the 1970’s.

Count your blessings along with your dollars, PGA Tour members.

You are truly living in the golden age.


*If you want to have a few minutes of nerdy good clean fun, try using this calculator to see how much money you made in your early working years versus today.